How to Treat an Ankle Injury and Preventative Measures

How many times have you uttered a thankful sigh of relief after a “rolling over” of the ankle without incurring a sprain? If the ankle goes too far, either to the inside or outside, it will result in a sprain. The good news is that most sprains can be treated on site. There are three levels of sprains, of which the first two involve a stretch or partially torn ligament. These tend to be the most common, and though painful with some bruising, walking is tolerable, especially with the occasional help of a companion or a set of trekking poles. With proper care and taping, healing can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks.

mild 2nd degree sprain, rotated inwards.

Third-degree injuries, however, require immediate medical attention. Initial treatment is often referred to by the acronym, RICE: Rest by getting off the feet; Ice the ankle, either in packed snow, a cold stream or a wet t-shirt; Compress with an elastic wrap to prevent swelling; and Elevate by propping up the leg. RICE must be applied to the ankle for at least 20-30 minutes and then let re-warm for 15 minutes if the person attempts to walk. The process needs to be repeated every 2 to 4 hours for the first 24 hours. Subsequently, compression and ice should be applied for the next 48 hours, at least 3 times a day. It may take a day or longer before the injured person can walk very far, but ultimately that will be the decision of the individual.

Ankle fractures can be more severe than a sprain, and treatment requires a bit more skill. A fractured ankle can range anywhere from a simple break in one bone that does not prevent you from walking, to a compound fracture in which the bone pierces the skin and prevents putting any weight on the ankle for up to three months. In either scenario, make sure to immobilize the injured person and then apply a splint, which can be fashioned out of a straight piece of wood or a rolled-up blanket, in order to minimize any further damage to the surrounding tissues. Try to avoid moving the individual, but keep them warm and comfortable until medical help arrives.

There are preventative measures that can be taken at home, such as strengthening the muscles and staying in shape, and once on the trail, wear a good pair of boots to minimize the chances of any calamities.

Please see the suggested resources below for further reading, and check out our braces and supports for preventing injuries:


Do you have any tips for preventing or treating ankle injuries? Leave us a comment below!


The information in this blog post is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

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  • I always throw in a ankle wrap that can be used on either foot. I have weak ankles so there is always a risk of injury to them.

  • JessOMS1

    Many ankle injuries can be prevented just by being mindful of foot placement on the trail. It’s easy to let your mind wander if you’re out on a trek, but it’s important to keep somewhat focused on the fact that you’re walking over uneven, potentially dangerous terrain. Also, I’m not trying to pick on anyone, but the title of this article should reference “Preventive” measures, not “Preventative”. Preventative is not actually a word, which I just learned myself fairly recently.

    • JoeNYC

      Did you actually look in a dictionary? Preventive is the original adjective corresponding to prevent, but preventative has gained ground—now appearing about a third as often as preventive—and most dictionaries list it as an accepted variant. The two are the same in all their meanings.

  • Phinneus

    Immediately taking a hiking boot or shoe off after an ankle turn, while on the trail can be a big mistake. As we all know, when tissue gets damaged, there is often swelling that happens almost at once. A removed shoe often cannot be put back on due to the swelling. There you are in the ‘outback’ or even a mile or two from the trail head, with a bare foot, too swollen to be be ‘re-booted’. Snow can be packed around a shod foot, which can also be submerged in a cold stream. The boot itself can be compressing the tissue to help prevent further swellimg. Even tightening the laces may help.